Blog Post
Introducing the These First Letters Series: Storyshares’ First Decodables

I am a former middle school ELA teacher, current dyslexia practitioner, and overall Science of Reading enthusiast! This summer, I have had the pleasure of working with Storyshares on their first series of decodables. These decodable texts have filled such a gap in my own teaching practice.

Teenagers know, more than any other age group, when they are consuming media that wasn’t created with them in mind. Unfortunately, so many decodable texts are written with the assumption that older students just won’t need them. As someone who has worked almost exclusively with students in the fourth grade and beyond, I know that’s not true. 

Here is what I do know: In the summer of 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop (who is accredited with many gains in multicultural literacy) wrote about books as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. This analogy fueled teachers and librarians to fill shelves with books that reflected the experiences of the students that would pick them up, other books that provided windows into experiences far away, and texts that transported them to other worlds. The These First Letters series provides windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors all in one 8-book, 35-chapter series that is set in Benin, North Carolina, Ecuador, the Bahamas, Seattle, and Australia.      

What I and fellow educators of teenagers love about the books in the These First Letters series, besides the fact that they look like books for older students, is that the characters are so relatable. I know through firsthand knowledge that when striving readers are engaged and can relate to what they read, they are better able to apply structured literacy skills to decode, fluently read, and comprehend texts. At Storyshares, we try to carve out new shelves for regional and classroom libraries. This series is designed to transport readers through multigenre illustrations, characters that want to change the world, and Science of Reading alignment that provides access and opportunities for literacy advancement.